By Mark Fong
For GYCB Pro, Roy Hawk, the 2019 Bassmaster Classic proved to be an event filled with excitement and challenges. When all was said and done, Hawk’s 11th place finish was a testimony to his immense angling skill and determination. The Inside Line caught up with the Arizona Pro as he prepared to depart for the stage four of the Bass Pro Tour at Lake Chickamauga and asked him to share his Classic experience with us. This is a glimpse into how he navigated the changing conditions that he faced over the course of the tournament.
A Good Start
During the first day of the practice period, Hawk launched his boat in the back of a creek and began fishing his way out. He found good concentrations of bait and caught some small keeper bass in very shallow water. He continued to fish around without much to show for it, so he headed out to the main channel where he found the fishing more to his liking.
“Immediately I connected with larger fish,” explained Hawk. “I started patterning them and running areas with strong current. The other days of practice I kept checking the backs of creeks and then going back to figuring out stretches on the main river. Ultimately, I felt strongest about the main river.”
Hawk had a stellar first day, cranking a Fire Craw colored SPRO Fat John 60 and ending the day in second place with a 5 fish limit weighing 17lbs 11oz. He focused his efforts on a region of Fort Loudon about a quarter of the way up the lake from the dam. “I went to a little gravel bar,” said Hawk, “I had a big smallmouth chase me to the boat in practice, so I figured I would start there and a lot of my other good stretches were in that region, too.”
The Process Begins
On day two, Hawk elected to start in a different location and work his way to his primary area. Again he started with a crankbait. Hawk continued to catch fish, but their size and numbers were diminished. His bite had changed, the water had cleared up and the current flow had slowed. It was now time for Hawk to change, too.
“I started to scramble, dig a little bit deeper and try to milk more fish out of a given area,” revealed Hawk. “I flipped more and I kept trying new stuff, I tried new stretches and new lures. Later in the day as the sun got up, I started flippin’ around docks and laydowns with a 6” Yamamoto Grub, the ‘Stretch 40’ (2-10). It’s just ideal for that — it’s got a small profile, it’s easy to handle, it’s not too big and it’s not too small. It’s just a good, subtle bait that’s really under-utilized and has flown under the radar for a long time. You can catch good quality fish as well as big fish with it. I was trying to figure out something that would be the juice."
Hawk mixed in a ½ oz Black and Blue Original Pepper Jig tipped with either a GYCB 3.75” Flappin' Hog (FH-07) or a 5” Double Tail (16-20) both in black w/blue flake (021). He kept changing throughout the day as he searched for something that would be key for the final day.
“The important thing is the process. I worked through a number of Yamamoto baits trying to figure it out, because the fish could have switched,” explained Hawk. “When the current started slowing down, the fish could have pulled really tight to the heavy cover and I could have flipped them. The process of mentally going through all that stuff and checking all the variables is very important. How it ends in the tournament is how it ends, but going through the process when things aren’t working out is an important aspect of tournament fishing.”
The day three bite toughened up even more for Hawk. He continued working through the process, running new water and changing up his baits. His biggest fish of the day came on a Pepper Custom Baits Spinnerbait and he finished up two fish shy of a limit and ended the Classic in 11th place.
“That’s the thing with tournament fishing and multi-day events, especially bigger events,” said Hawk. “Things change and you gotta keep working through it until you figure out what is next. Unfortunately, I never did really figure out the next step. I hung on — I caught enough extra fish to keep me in range. I still had a shot, with one more good day I could have won.”
Crankbait: 7’4” Taipan Roy Hawk Signature Series Heavy Reaction Rod, Quantum Smoke Casting Reel, 14lb Sugoi Casting Line, SPRO Fat John 60 Crankbait Fire Craw
Stretch 40 Grub: 7’6” Taipan Flippin’ Rod, Quantum Casting Reel, 16lb Sugoi Flippin’ Line, 3/16 oz Tungsten Weight, 5/0 Sugoi Worm Hook, Yamamoto Stretch 40 Grub (2-10) Junebug - 213
Jig: 7’6” Taipan Flippin’ Rod, Quantum Casting Reel, 20lb Sugoi Flippin’ Line, ½ oz Pepper Custom Baits Arky Jig (Black & Blue and Global Warming), Yamamoto 5” Double Tail Grub (16-20) Black w/ Blue – 021, Yamamoto 3.75” Flappin Hog (FH-07) Bama Bug – 952
Spinnerbait: 7’4” Taipan Roy Hawk Signature Series Heavy Reaction Rod, Quantum Smoke Casting Reel, 20lb Sugoi Flippin’ Line, Pepper Custom Baits ½ oz Tandem Willow Spinnerbait Hawk’s Secret